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New Faces, Old Paces: Fighting Politics and Stagnation on the Road to a No Kill Niagara | Commentary

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New Faces, Old Paces: Fighting Politics and Stagnation on the Road to a No Kill Niagara
New Faces, Old Paces: Fighting Politics and Stagnation on the Road to a No Kill Niagara

The new Board of Directors of the Niagara County SPCA has finally spoken.  It was announced earlier this week that Amy Lewis, who has been serving as interim Director, has entered into a 1-year contract.

Although we have made some progress toward our ultimate goal of achieving a No Kill Niagara SPCA, in many ways we are right back to square one.  Despite the public urging the Board of Directors to pursue an open application process in order to attract and identify the very best candidates for Executive Director, the Board decided to completely ignore these requests, to circumvent a proper candidate search and to settle for the interim director who had been put in place by the former, discredited Board of Directors and their handler, criminal defense attorney, Paul Cambria.

Although certain members of the new Board claim that both the Board and Amy Lewis "embrace" the No Kill philosophy, their actions thus far belie that claim. For example, the organization's major source of revenue continues to come from municipal animal control contracts and cremation services for select customers (including former Niagara SPCA Board member, Dr. William A. Gerber).

Amy Lewis made her debut at the end of February 2012.  Between then and now, Lewis has been caught in countless lies, managed to burn bridges with nearly all rescue groups in Niagara County, implemented protocol within the shelter that saw many treatable animals killed without proper behavioral assessment or veterinary care, driven away all but a handful of volunteers, outraged and alienated donors, volunteers and visitors by insisting on running her incinerator (burning dead animals) during adoption hours and has still failed to implement standard operating procedures surrounding behavior evaluations, intake assessment, veterinary care and cleaning.  

Granted, Lewis' regime has made some positive changes.  At the public's insistence, Lewis has significantly reduced the kill rate at Niagara SPCA, primarily by no longer taking in community cats (aka feral cats).  The overwhelming majority of animals put to death before Lewis' appointment were feral cats.  

Many kill shelter apologists claim that it "takes years" to reach the 90% live save rate which defines No Kill.  These same apologists urge the public to "be patient," repeating the mantra that "change takes time."  In all actuality, it is not the change that takes time, but the conversion to a mindset that is capable of realizing the need for change.  This conversion can be likened to the crossing of chasm. In crossing over the expanse of the chasm, you must be courageous, let go of what anchors you to what's behind, and trust in the stability of the unfamiliar ground that awaits you.  Not everyone possesses such courage and determination to cross the expanse.  For many, it's a much more comforting prospect to give in to the fear and trepidation and remain on familiar ground.

In Nathan Winograd's book, Redemption, he explains in great detail the No Kill philosophy and how true, life-saving change can occur overnight.   After a statement of intent to adhere to the "No Kill Equation" is made by a shelter, it is a fast track to achieving No Kill.  The "years" cited by kill shelter apologists and critics of No Kill are consumed by the paralyzing trepidation leading up to the decision to move towards No Kill.  These years are often filled with excuse making and "casual, ad-hoc, limited implementation" of the programs and services outlined in the No Kill Equation.

If we truly believe these animals have a Right to live and that attaining No Kill status at the Niagara SPCA is possible, as we do, then it is imperative to ACT now.  We ought not become complacent and simply hope that the Board and Director Lewis will "do the right thing."  The time for waiting patiently and begging for scraps of humanity has long since passed. Neither the current Board of Directors nor Director Lewis have made ANY commitment to or statement of intent to implement the programs and services outlined in the "No Kill Equation."  Until this happens, we will be steadfast and relentless in exposing the myriad of problems that persist within that organization.     

"[I]t is clear... that No Kill is simply not achievable without rigorous implementation of each and every one of these programs and services.  It is up to us in the humane movement to demand them of our local shelters, and no longer to settle for the illusory excuses and smokescreens shelters often put up in order to avoid implementing them." -Nathan Winograd, Redemption


Morgan Dunbar

Director, Animal Allies of Western New York



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